Adam Scott wins GWAA Player of the Year award
To me, the Golf Writers Association of America had two pretty obvious front runners for their annual Player of the Year vote: Tiger Woods and Henrik Stenson. In saying that, I don’t mean to diminish the accomplishments of players like Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Jason Dufner and others who certainly had great seasons in 2013, but from start to finish, it seemed like Tiger and Stenson were the two most dominant players out there for the last twelve months. The GWAA clearly thought differently, voting Scott as the Player of the Year, narrowly edging out Tiger as you’ll see from Ryan Lavner’s tweet below.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first, and that’s the criteria at play here when it comes to this award. The GWAA voters are told to look at the entire season from a worldwide view, not just through the eyes of the PGA Tour. This is, you’d think, how Scott was able to garner so many votes.
In 2013, Scott played his typical short schedule early, as we only saw him seven times prior to the U.S. Open. Of course, as you’ll remember, he did win a pretty big tournament in those seven starts, coming away with a green jacket after becoming the first Australian to win the Masters. Outside of that win, he had some good finishes, including a T3 at Doral after a tremendous final round 64 to get within five shots of Tiger’s winning total of 19-under par.
For the most part though, Scott played some middling golf, as he usually does to be honest, until he put together another great run from the Open Championship to the PGA Championship where only one of his sixteen rounds were over par. That run led to a victory at the Barclays and another close call with the Claret Jug. He did nothing of note through the rest of the FedEx Cup playoffs before taking some time off and when he came back for his standard swing of golf in his native Australia, he exploded with two wins, a runner-up to Rory McIlroy where he had the lead on the 72nd hole and a T3. Not a bad way to finish off your season, but despite what Jason Sobel says here, it is worth mentioning that those finishes came against lesser quality fields. It’s true that you can only play against the field you’re given, but when it comes to judging who the best player of the year was, I think that needs to be taken into consideration.
Tiger, as you’ll recall, did most of his damage early in the season, winning five times on the PGA Tour from February to August. No major championships again for the fifth consecutive season, but it is worth noting that those wins came against some extremely high quality fields at Torrey Pines, Doral, Bay Hill, the PLAYERS and the Bridgestone. The lack of a major and maybe even the pretty forgettable run he had in the FedEx Cup definitely hurt him, as did the rules violations and mess with Brandel Chamblee.
Stenson this year played a crazy amount of golf, teeing it up 31 times by my count, starting with the Volvo Golf Champions in the second week of January and ending in Thailand where he was the runner up to Sergio Garcia at Amata Spring. Unlike Tiger, Stenson’s success came largely in the second half of the season. Stenson played fifteen tournaments after the U.S. Open, starting with the BMW International Open in Germany where he finished tied for 10th. In those fifteen events, Stenson finished inside the top-10 eleven times, including eight top-3’s and three wins at the Deutsche Bank, Tour Championship and DP World Tour Championship, allowing him to come away as the leading money winner on both the PGA and European Tour.
Now that we’ve got their cases out of the way, here’s what I would have done and what I think happened with the GWAA vote. My top four would have been Tiger, Stenson, Scott and Mickelson in that order. Jamie Kennedy has a great statistical look from November which is worth reading as well, where he makes the case for Stenson.
Yes, the rules infraction business got a little ugly at times and he still hasn’t won a major since 2008, but Tiger’s domination of great fields and the fact that he had more wins than anyone trumps that stuff for me. Stenson’s season was probably the most consistent, and the fact that he played thirteen more official events than Tiger worldwide is a crazy number. Jamie’s piece above makes a great argument for Stenson, but I still like Tiger’s overall run more than his. As for Scott, his lack of consistency always surprises me because he’s so talented, and that happened again this year. The Masters win was absolutely incredible and should count for more than regular events, but I do feel that his end of season run is a little lessened by the fields he was playing against.
Now, here’s what I think happened with the GWAA. As Sobel mentioned above, the writers do put more emphasis on the majors than the other tournaments, which fairly or not, is just the way it is. Since Tiger and Phil and countless others have made the majors most of their focus coming into every season, it seems like that’s the correct way to do things, but that doesn’t mean that it should overrule everything else that happens in the other 30-plus weeks of the season.
The other thing that I definitely think happened was that the writers took the rules situations that came into play this year and they used it against Tiger in their voting. The fact that Stenson didn’t win a major and “only” had three wins was enough to take him out of the running, while Mickelson finishing ahead of Stenson makes pretty much no sense to me other than the well-known fact that golf writers seem to swoon over Mickelson at every turn.
Do I think Tiger, Stenson or Mickelson noticed the award given to Scott? I’m sure they did, but I’m also pretty sure that they don’t actually care one way or the other. If anything, Tiger is probably thankful that he didn’t win, as the winner typically goes to a dinner with all of the writers. That’s not exactly his scene, as I’m sure most of you are fully aware.
Realistically though, this is all a matter of opinion and the golf writers who voted are certainly entitled to that. It was one of the best years in recent memory for golf and these guys all played a massive role in it. The best part is that we get to watch it all over again starting tonight.